Monday 29 May 2006
euro final 1
Very much counter to my expectations, last weekend's Eurovision Song Contest, which girlfriend Mandy insisted on watching despite my protestations, was almost enjoyable. It has been some time since I've seen one, but the organisers in their wisdom have introduced a number of tweaks which have made it more endurable than in years gone by.
The number of countries participating on the night has been reduced to 24 (with another dozen or more eliminated in the ‘semi-final' on the previous evening), the time taken for individual countries to ‘call-in' with their votes has also been greatly truncated and the overall show seemed to rattle along quite speedily.
Of course, the quality of the songs and performances left a lot to be desired in most cases, with dross like Bosnia/Herzegovina's entry supposedly favourite to win (presumably due to the suspect voting patterns and the recent influx of eastern European members of the EU). But there were some participants that chose to take a cynical, even sarcastic approach to their entries; the Germans went all country rock on us, a bunch of Latvians in white suits sang acapella and danced with a bizarre robot contraption and Lordi from Finland (the eventual winners) treated us to some sanitised death metal.
My own personal favourite was LT United from Lithuania , five immaculately black-suited men, looking like ex-Russian mafia with disturbing fixed grins on their faces, singing in football anthem style, “We are the winners of Eurovision.” Wonderfully ironic and quite catchy too – the only other lyrics appearing to consist of, “We are, we are” and “Vote, vote, vote, vote, vote for the winners.” They were also quite clearly booed by much of the Greek audience throughout the event for some unexplained reason. A classic Eurovision moment.
It seems the Europe-wide phone-voting audience were equally cynical, with the Lithuanian song coming sixth and the Gwar-lookalikes Lordi coming top by some distance. One wonders what will happen next year. Every other country entering death metal songs? I can't wait.
Eurovision news, photos and downloads:
Lordi's website: http://www.lordi.org/
euro final 2
The eagerly awaited (by some) European Champions League Final took place last Wednesday on the sodden turf of the Estade d'France in Paris between Arsenal and Barcelona . Two teams more disliked by Chelsea supporters it would be hard to find (although Liverpool comes fairly high on the list as well), so it was with a degree of detachment that I watched the events unfold.
The big talking point was, of course, the sending off of Arsenal goalkeeper Lehmann. Chelsea fans would have been far from surprised that referee Terje Hauge had dismissed a player from a team opposing the team from Catalonia in the light of his apparent favouritism for the La Liga boys in the earlier encounter versus Chelsea. But the actual offence was plainly a sending-off, Lehmann clearly grabbing hold of Eto'o's foot (ostensibly just outside the penalty area).
Much debate was held about whether the goalkeeper should have merely received a yellow card as subsequent events saw Giuly place the ball into the empty net. The goal wasn't given as presumably the referee had already whistled for the foul, and so the red card was inevitable. Commentators immediately condemned the ref's actions, suggesting that play should have been allowed to continue to see if any advantage was accrued. Even UEFA boss Sepp Blatter, who's always got something to say, suggested that Hauge had made an error and indeed the referee later admitted that he had got it wrong.
The general consensus was that the decision spoiled the whole ‘showpiece final' by reducing the Premiership team to 10 men so early in the match, forcing them into a defensive formation, cutting short Robert Pires' last match for the Gunners and probably denying Dennis Bergcamp a final outing in an Arsenal shirt.
But what if play was allowed to continue and Giuly had missed the open goal? Or if an Arsenal defender made a last-ditch clearance? The referee would have had no option under the current laws of the game but to send Lehmann off. The game would still have stood 0-0, Barcelona would still have had only a free kick as compensation for being denied a ‘clear goal scoring opportunity' and they would still have had to break down a resolute 10-man Arsenal backs-to-the-wall defence. As often happens in football, the 10-men heroically succeed in achieving a draw, or even a win against the 11 men opposition. In this case, Arsenal took the lead and held on until the 76th minute. Let's suppose that Arsenal held out until full-time and won the cup. Would the English media have been harping on about the referee's decision to send Lehmann off? I don't think so. Barcelona would have been the ones wailing about the injustice of being denied a perfectly ‘good' goal.
I happen to think that there is a quite simple rule change which would restore some of the balance to the beautiful game, and it's a change that I've been harping on about to anyone who will listen for many many years. Probably since Schumacher body checked Battiston and left him hospitalised for months in the 1982 World Cup.
the rule change:
In the event of a player (goalkeeper or defender) denying the attacking side the proverbial ‘clear goal scoring opportunity,' inside or OUTSIDE the penalty area, then a PENALTY KICK should be awarded. The offending player should be yellow-carded if necessary. Thus, the attacking side is rewarded with a goal scoring opportunity, the defending side still has 11 men on the pitch, and the chance of a ‘showpiece final' or any other match for which spectators have paid good money to watch remains unspoilt. Justice.
Here's another example: Earlier this year in a Premiership match between Everton and Blackburn Rovers, 22-year old debutant goalkeeper Iain Turner was sent off after just nine minutes for handling the ball outside the penalty area – simply a moment of madness, neither being unsporting, dangerous or denying a scoring opportunity to the attacking side, but the referee had ‘no alternative' but to dismiss him for what amounts to a technicality.
To my mind, this rule change would make the game fairer, doesn't alter the spirit of the game of football (which introducing things like ‘sin bins' surely would) and give a distinct advantage to the fouled team without ruining the remainder of the match.
Some might say that to award a penalty for an offence outside the area would be a huge decision for a referee to make, especially in a big game. But is it any bigger than giving a player a red card? I suggest that's it's not.
Oddly, I'd never heard anyone else come up with this idea until a few weeks ago, when a caller to a sport talk radio suggested the same law change. They were of course shouted down by the presenters.
global domination continues
If all those who solely speak the English language will excuse me for a moment, I must mention here that the third Strangehaven volume, ‘Conspiracies' is now available in Spanish from my good friends at Planeta DeAgostini. The second volume is also due be published in France in June by my old chums Akileos. I must point this out, not so much to bring it to the attention of potential European purchasers, but just to show off to everyone else.
I'll also point out that the French edition also sports brand new covers, which is something else I've been working on in recent weeks. At some point I shall find time to post on this site them somewhere or other.
Monday 22 May 2006
back from bristol
Last weekend Chris Staros and I attended the fabulous Bristol Expo, and kudos to Mike, David and the rest of the team for once more putting on a fine show. I guess at some point I'll be posting a report and a few digital photos, but as my list of ‘things to do' now runs at three pages, it may take a while.
As it is, it's taken almost a week to arrive at a point where I've been able to update this here blog-type thing. On Monday Chris and I hung out, discussed business strategies and gossiped about comic professionals in a ‘whirlpool spa' at the local sports club; I chauffeured him to the airport on Tuesday morning, and started consolidating my stock and doing the accounting and banking tasks that afternoon. The intervening days have been spent making a dent in the several hundred email messages that had accumulated during my four days away from the laptop and attending to other pressing matters.
Anyway, I have but one more obligation to fill, one solitary date to cross off the back of the Strangehaven 10th Anniversary commemorative T-shirt, that being the London Film & Comicon right at the start of July, and then I'm done. Until I get another invite from somewhere really interesting that is.
never say d.i.y.
Got a bit of a spurt on with the decorating of the back bedroom in the days prior to the arrival of Top Shelf supremo Chris , who flew in to the UK immediately before last weekend's Bristol Expo.
That deadline spurred me on to finish wallpapering the remaining walls (although they still need two coats of white emulsion) and then to board out the floor with 6 mm MDF in preparation of the carpet laying. Again, the fact that the walls were so out of true made cutting and laying the boards to fit more than a little awkward. A feat made still more difficult by my erroneous assumption that the sides of the chimney breast would be approximately parallel to the side walls (whilst already knowing that the end wall gave only lip service to the notion of right-angles). It suddenly dawned on me that the chimney breast actually protruded at ninety degrees from the end wall, making my job of cutting around the fire surround that much more confusing, cardboard templates eventually solving all difficulties.
So despite unpainted wallpaper and uncarpeted floors, Chris was more comfortable on his inflatable mattress than any year previously. By next May, I reckon I should have the room finished. But no promises, mind.
Uninvited like the Clouds
[The Church] ****
This is the BBC
films on sky
The Riverman ***
Without A Paddle **
Meet The Fokkers ***
Eurovision Song Contest **
Desperate Housewives ****
Dr. Who **
The Fate of the Artist [Campbell]
Beautiful Things [Wilson]
H.G. Wells' War of the Worlds [Edgington & D'Israeli]
The Mitalee [Westcliff]
La Taverna dell Artista [Bristol]
King William III Pub [Bristol]
Arse 1 Barca 2
Barcodes 1 Chelsea 0
Rovers 1 Chelsea 0
25/05 Gary 1 Steve 2
22/05 Gary 4 Steve 1
18/05 Gary 3 Steve 2
08/05 Gary 3 Steve 2